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vm EDWARD I 197

Edward, however, had now been forced to take the
fatal step from the position of a rightful over-lord to that
of a conqueror. Conquest in him would have been sage
and mild; after the first pang the Scotch people would
have found themselves freed in some measure from the
domination of a lawless and oppressive oligarchy, under
parliamentary government, and in the enjoyment of se-
cure peace. But this depended on the king's presence.
He was called away to the defence of his calamitous pos-
sessions in France. The retention of Gascony when the 1297
other continental dominions of the house of Anjou were
happily lost, is one of the great disasters of English
history, poorly compensated by freedom of trade with
Bordeaux. Cressingham, Edward's vice-gerent in Scot-
land, seems to have been haughty and unwise, while the
bearing of a victorious soldiery, unless controlled, is sure
to be offensive. Perhaps in the west of Scotland, where
there was a mixture in the population of a more primi-
tive and wilder element, the very approach of order was
enough to stir revolt. Wallace, whose proper name,
Waleys, denotes his Celtic origin, a man of middle rank,
having slain an Englishman, and being outlawed, took to
the woods, gathered a band, and put to death all the Eng- 1297
lish who fell into his power. His following swelled to an
army, and at Stirling, Cressingham, by madly defiling 1297
over a narrow bridge in the face of the enemy, threw a
victory into his hands. Wallace invaded the north of
England and ravaged it with the most savage cruelty,
leaving, in the words of a Scotch historian, nothing be-
hind him but blood and ashes. He was now master in
Scotland ; but the nobles would not join him, and to re-
cruit his army he had to inaugurate a reign of terror,



198 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

setting up gibbets and hanging those who refused to en-
list. Edward again entered Scotland and annihilated the

1298 army of Wallace at Falkirk, opening the serried masses
of Scotch spearmen with the English long-bow, which
here for the first time shows its power. Wallace was
totally deserted by his following and wandered in obscu-
rity for seven years, at the end of which he was given up
by the Scotch of the other party, carried to London,

1305 tried, and executed as a traitor. His plea and the plea of
Scotch historians in his behalf is that he could not have
been guilty of treason since he had not sworn fealty to
the king of England. He was indicted not only for trea-
son, but for his murders, burnings, sacrileges, and other
atrocities. If a private citizen of Alsace-Lorraine, after
the cession of that territory to Germany, had raised an
insurrection on his own account, murdered every German
on whom he could lay his hands, tied German priests
and nuns back to back and thrown them into rivers,
hanged subjects of the empire for refusing to join his
army, invaded a German province, butchered its inhabi-
tants without regard to age or sex, burnt a church full of
people, and made men and women dance naked before him,
pricking them with lances, the fact that he had not per-
sonally sworn fealty to the German emperor would hardly
have^ saved his life. The hideous mutilation of a
traitor's body was the barbarism of the age. It was in
the middle of the seventeenth century that the Scotch,

1650 after hanging Montrose for waging war against them,
stuck his head upon a pole, sent his four limbs to four
different cities, and buried his mutilated trunk under the
gibbet. Wallace himself had made a sword-belt of Cres-
singham's skin.



VIII EDWARD I 199

The fall of Wallace brought the baronial party of inde-
pendence again to the front, and Comyn, the leading
noble, was elected a guardian of the realm. Edward had 1299
to make two more campaigns, which, however, proved
little more than military parades. Again he disturbed
nothing, took no vengeance on anybody, though the per-
fidy of those who had rebelled after solemn submission
and homage must have stung him to the heart. The gar-
rison of Stirling held out, contrary to the laws of war,
after the surrender of the kingdom, and Edward nearly 1304
lost his life in the siege ; yet he spared the garrison. He
caused a convention to be held at Perth for the election
of Scottish deputies to act in conjunction with English
deputies on a commission for the settlement of Scotland.
The commission framed a plan, making the king's
nephew, John of Bretagne, governor, constituting a joint 1305
judiciary of Englishmen and Scotchmen, and providing
for a revision of the laws of David, king of Scotland.
This was an anticipation of the union.

Edward might flatter himself that the fire of resistance
in Scotland was extinct. It was only smouldering. Yet
had he lived and had his hands been free, it would prob-
ably not again have blazed ; probably it would have died
away. But his hands had been full of troubles and for-
eign war ; and now he was near his end. His failing
strength was no doubt marked by an ambitious advent-
urer at his side. Robert Bruce, destined to delay for
four calamitous centuries the reunion of the Anglo-Saxon
race in Britain, was no Scotch patriot, but a Norman ad-
venturer, playing his own game, carving out for himself
a kingdom with his sword, as was the fashion of his race,
and as his brother Edward tried afterwards to do in



200 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

Ireland. He was the grandson of Robert Bruce, the
competitor for the Scottish crown. Bruce the competitor
held, with his Scotch earldom of Carrick, great estates
in Yorkshire, and had been a member of the judiciary in
England. His son, the second Robert Bruce, was Ed-
ward's intimate friend, had gone with him to the crusade,
and was always a loyal subject of the English crown.
The third Robert Bruce, now coming on the scene, was
probably born in England, had lived in Edward's court,
eaten his bread, borne fealty to him, enjoyed his confi-
dence, been addressed by him as " loyal and faithful," and
employed by him in receiving the submission of a Scotch
district. To prove his fidelity he had ravaged the estates
of one of the opposite party. It seems true that since
the dethronement of Baliol he had formed an ambitious
design and had been playing a double game. But a
double game is not patriotism or honour. Seeing, as no
doubt he did, that Edward's vigour was departing, Bruce

1305 slipped away to Scotland, laid claim to the crown, and
set up the standard of revolt. Comyn, the late guardian
and the head of the nobility, stood in his way. On pre-
tence of a conference he trained him to a church and

1306 stabbed him there. To the stain of treachery he thus
added the stain of murder. It does not seem that he was
at first received with enthusiasm. His chief supporter
was Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, a man double-dyed in
perfidy. Edward's wrath now broke forth beyond his
wont, yet not wholly without measure. He pronounced
sentence of death against all who had been implicated in
the murder of Comyn, imprisonment during his pleasure
against all who had taken part in the revolt. He car-
ried out his sentence against Nigel Bruce, the brother of



VIII EDWARD I 201

Robert, and such leaders of the insurrection as fell into
his hands. A government in our own day could scarcely
do less. The Scotch exulted in what they called " Doug- 1307
las's larder," the feat of one of Bruce's adherents who
surprised an English garrison in a church, slew them all,
and, being unable to hold the castle, threw the bodies of
the English upon a pile of wood and burnt the whole.
Bruce, unable to withstand the forces sent against him,
had to take refuge in the woods. But being a man of
great military capacity and powers of leadership he ral-
lied and made head again. Once more Edward heard the
call of royal duty and obeyed ; but his last hour had
come. He was suffering from a mortal malady. Un- 1307
dauntedly he struggled with it and rode at the head of
his army till he could ride but two miles a day, and at
last was obliged to take to his litter. So, on the march,
and still eagerly pressing forward, he ended the life 1307
which had been one long march of duty. His dying
words were an expression of faith in God, with a command
that his heart should be carried to the Holy Land, to an
expedition for the relief of which he had looked forward
as the blessed end of his long life of toil.' He enjoined
his son to carry his bones at the head of the army into
Scotland.

Richelieu in his day crushed feudal anarchy and in-
stalled order in its room. But he did not call forth
life, and the end was decay. Edward I. called forth life.
His work did not decay. Hard by the beautiful effigy of
Eleanor at Westminster her husband rests in a severely
simple tomb. Pass it not by for its simplicity ; few
tombs hold nobler dust.



CHAPTER IX

EDWARD II

Born 1284 ; Succeeded 1307 ; Deposed and Died 1327

TNSTEAD of carrying his father's bones onwards at
the head of the army, and completing his father's
work, Edward II. soon turned away from the affairs of
Scotland to his pleasures, and left Bruce time to repair
his reverses and seat himself firmly on the throne. After
an interval of seven years, and when the troubles of his
reign had begun, he led an army which his chief barons
refused to join, and which could have no confidence in
1314 its commander, to total defeat at Bannockburn. So
ended for many a day the hope of a united Britain. In
place of it came centuries of mutual hatred, reciprocal
havoc, devastating war, border brigandage, and common
insecurity ; of disunion in Scotland herself, the Lowland
kingdom not having strength to subdue and incorporate
the Highlands ; of diplomatic vassalage of Scotland to
France ; of retarded civilization on both sides, but espe-
cially on the side of the weaker kingdom. If destiny
had a partial compensation for these evils in store, it
was beyond the ken either of Plantagenet or of Bruce.
The game which Robert Bruce had played in Scotland
his brother Edward attempted to play in Ireland, but
after filling the island with havoc and tasting of Celtic
inconstancy, he was encountered by a better commander

202



CHAP. IX EDWARD II 203

than Edward II. in the person of Sir John Bermingham,
and on the field of Dundalk met his doom. 1318

It must have added a pang to the great king's death
to think in what hands he left the government. If, as
Horace says, the eagle does not breed the dove, he
breeds the crow, and perhaps in the course of nature.
Edward I., the son of a weak father, had himself been
strengthened by early conflict with an adverse world.
His son's weakness had probably been increased by the
shelter of his father's strength and the prospect of an
assured throne. The pains which his father had taken
to train him for business and war, he being apt for
neither, may have increased his distaste for both. He
was in person a hollow counterfeit of his father ; a tall
and handsome figure without the soul ; a man of pleas-
ure, elegant but frivolous in his tastes and pursuits,
incapable of standing alone, and always leaning help-
lessly on favourites. Such are the chances of hereditary
monarchy ; such perhaps is its corrective ; for a line
of strong kings might be fatal to liberty.

It seems that the age was declining from the mascu-
line, chivalrous, and religious character which had been
embodied in the first Edward, and that the mental
effeminacy of the second Edward was partly the infec-
tion of his time. The end of the crusades is marked
by the dissolution of the order of Templars, the great 1308
soldiers of the Cross, in France with hideous cruelty,
in England with comparative mildness and respect for
the persons of the knights.

A change was coming over the character of one of the
political forces. In place of the Norman baronage of
the Conquest, or of the English baronage which had



204 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

led the nation in its resistance to the tyranny of John
and the misgovernment of Henry III., there was rising
a group of magnates headed by kinsmen of the royal
house, who, by marriage, inheritance, escheat, or royal
favour, joined earldom to earldom and had accumulated
vast domains. Of the twelve greatest fiefs, seven
had come into the royal family before the death of
Edward I. The formation of appanages for members
of the royal family was a policy apparently strong, but
really weak. Instead of being supporters, the holders
of the appanages became restless rivals of the crown ;
and in those days ambitious energy could find no scope
other than war, except in intrigue. The cabals, treasons,
and rebellions of the magnates, when the government is
not strong enough to control them, fill the scene ,* till
at last there are formed two parties, ostensibly dynastic,
but really oligarchical, which, in the civil war of the
Roses, fall on each other's swords. At the same time
there is usually a court party devoted to the interests
of the crown and to its own, naturally headed by the
king's favourites, and regarded with jealous hatred by
the grandees.

Edward II. had formed a fatuous attachment to Piers
Gaveston, a young Gascon full of gasconade, brilliant
but worthless, the precursor of the minions of James I.
The late king had striven in vain to break off the fatal
connection. No sooner was he gone than his son was
again in Gaveston's arms. Gifts, grants, and honours
were heaped upon the favourite with an extravagance
almost insane. Together the pair led a life of dissipa-
tion, profusion, and misrule. Gaveston, among other
diversions, indulged in that of scoffing at the grandees,



IX EDWARD II 205

giving them nicknames, and unhorsing them at tourna- .
nients, in which, as in everything martial, he showed
prowess. The Earl of Warwick he nicknamed the
Black Dog, and the Black Dog vowed that the minion
should feel his teeth.

Signs of a gathering storm soon appeared. The gov-
ernment had to forbid tournaments, which were the
pretexts for insurrectionary meetings in those days, as
hunting parties were in Jacobite times. There was first
opposition in parliament, the commons, at the prompting,
probably, of disaffected magnates demanding that redress
of grievances should be granted as a condition preced^t
to their grant of a subsidy ; then there was an assem-
blage of the barons in arms. The precedent of Henry
III. and the Provisions of Oxford appears to have been
in the mind of the authors of the movement. The part
of Simon De Montfort was played by an inferior actor,
the king's cousin, Thomas, Earl at once of Lancaster,
Lincoln, Leicester, Salisbury, and Derby, who here laid
for the bearer of his title the foundation of an opposition
policy something like that of the house of Orleans in
its antagonism to the elder branch of the Bourbons.
A committee of lords and prelates was formed resem-
bling that formed by the parliament of Oxford, and a
set of ordinances was framed and imposed upon the 1311
king. These ordinances enumerate and condemn the
old and ever-recurring imposts and abuses, fiscal, judi-
cial, and forestal, as well as the waste of the royal
domains by prodigal grants and the malversation which
diverted the revenues from the exchequer to the king's
pleasures or to the coffers of his favourite ; while the
hand of the prelates is seen in the prohibition of inter-



206 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

• ference with the church courts. It appears that among
his irregular modes of raising money the king had been
tampering with the coinage, and this grievance also is
denounced. But the ordinances go on to claim a con-
trol over the appointment of all the great officers of
state, as well as over the conduct of war and the raising
of forces for it. It is further ordained that parliaments
shall be held at least once in every year, and that a
tribunal for hearing complaints against the king's offi-
cers, for impeachment in fact, shall be formed. These
were ordinances of virtual deposition, against which the
king was sure, if he retained a particle of royal instinct,
as soon as he had an opportunity to revolt.

1308 Gaveston had been banished and had sworn not to
return. But the pope, ever open to the approaches of
royalty, absolved him from his oath and he returned.

1309 The lords then took up arms, and Gaveston, falling into
the hands of the Black Dog of Warwick, did feel his

1312 teeth, being beheaded without trial on Blacklow Hill.
His enemies might say that under the ordinances he had
been banished and declared liable to treatment as a public

/ enemy if he returned. So ended his tragi-comedy. He
seems, besides his strange fascinations, to have had some
capacity, at least for war, and to have done well as vice-
gerent in Ireland, though he led his royal friend madly
on the road to ruin.

The king now put himself into the hands of the
Despensers, father and son. He struggled, as might
have been expected, against the ordinances. But he
was depressed by his defeat at Bannockburn, which was
followed by devastating inroads of the Scotch, and

1319 presently by the loss of another battle at Mitton. Fam-



IX EDWARD II 207

ine came to complete the unpopularity of his government
as well as the wretchedness of the times. Lancaster now
grasped power, making the consent of the council neces- 1314
sary to all acts of government and himself president of
the council. But he who sets his foot on the steps of a
throne should mount. If he does not, he falls. A power
like that of Lancaster, even if it is popular at first, is sure
to create jealousy and raise up foes, while it has no robe
or diadem to command respect. Things went little bet-
ter under Lancaster's ascendancy than they had gone
before. His party split and general confusion followed.
Suddenly the king borrowed courage from despair and
took up arms. He found unexpected support. Lancas-
ter was defeated, taken prisoner, and with a number of 1322
his partisans put to death. Like De Montfort, he was
canonized by the people as a patriot saint, and miracles
were performed at his tomb. But the measure of his
patriotism compared with that of his ambition seems to
have been small; it was small indeed if, as appears, he
was in treasonable correspondence with the Scotch.

The party of the ordinances was now overthrown,
and the Despensers, father and son, reigned in the
king's name. What were their political aims can
hardly be said. They were the son and grandson of a
baron and justiciar who had fallen by the side of
De Montfort at Evesham. The father was a veteran
minister of Edward I. In a parliamentary attack on
them the younger Despenser was accused of teaching
the doctrines that it is to the crown, not to the person
of the king, that allegiance is due, and that it is the duty
of the subject if the king goes wrong to force him to
mend his ways. When the ordinances were overthrown,



208 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

the restoration of royal government was proclaimed under
1322 the influence of the Despensers by the announcement that
" from henceforth matters to be established for the estate
of our lord the king and for his heirs and for the estate
of the realm and people shall be considered and estab-
lished in parliament by our lord the king and by the
consent of the prelates, earls, and barons, and of the com-
monalty of the realm, according as it has been hitherto
accustomed." This declaration, it will be observed, was
pointed against the baronial ordinances, not against the
prerogative of the crown. We must be on our guard
through these ages against taking manifestoes of party
for measures of advancing principle. The practical con-
cessions of the ordinances were at the same time con-
firmed. Hence it has been conjectured that the policy
of the Despensers may have been, like that of Edward I.,
national and an ti -feudal ; it must at all events have been
opposed to the ascendancy of the magnates. But popu-
larity and the support of parliament were necessary to
the recovery of their power ; and when their power was
recovered no policy seems to have restrained the rapacity
of the father or the reckless violence of the son. Favour-
1326 ites always are, or can be easily made, odious. The ease
with which the government was overthrown by such con-
spirators as the vile queen and her vile paramour Morti-
mer seems to prove that it was not only weak but detested
and friendless.
1326 Savage atrocity was shown by the victors in the execu-
tion of the Despensers as it had been by the other party
in the execution of Lancaster. This characterized, and
continues to characterize, wars not of principle but of
personal rivalry and faction. After the fall of De Mont-



IX ~ EDWARD II 209

fort there had been forfeitures, but no executions. The
nation now underwent its baptism of bloody civil war.
A sinister omen also is the appearance of Orlton, a bishop,
as an arch-traitor and an accomplice in the murder of the
king.

It is needless to recount the tragic end of Edward, in 1327
depicting which Marlowe has rivalled Shakespeare.

Through all these troubles, revolutions, and rebellions,
the work of Edward I., though sorely strained, had borne
the strain. The nation had never, as in the time of Ste-
phen, lost its organization. Government had remained
parliamentary ; each revolution had assumed a parlia-
mentary guise ; the king, after his victory over the mag-
nates and the overthrow of the ordinances, had continued
to call parliaments ; and it was by the action of parlia-
ment, with constitutional formalities devised apparently
for the occasion, that Edward II. was deposed and his
crown was given to his son. Mortimer, again, proceeded to
base his domination on a parliament, though a parliament,
no doubt, so far as the commons were concerned, packed
by his party. It has been truly remarked that the House
of Commons, as a body always renewed apart from oli-
garchic faction and unscathed by its sword or axe, was
likely to gain in authority by the confusion in which oli-
garchies or favourites perished. Thus the "little people
of the commons" pushed their way beside the "great
men " of the nobility whom they were destined in the end
to thrust from power. The weak point of the Commons'
House would be the want of personal continuity, in an
age in which there was no political press to bridge the
intervals between parliaments, keep alive leadership, and
prepare the new members for their work.

VOL. I — 14



CHAPTER X

EDWARD III
Born 1312; Succeeded 1327; Died 1377

"DOR four years, under the nominal kingship of a boy,
the country endured the rule of a French adulteress
and murderess with her paramour. But Mortimer ended
like other usurpers who do not consummate their usurpa-
tion ; conspiracy, which had raised, overthrew him ; and
at eighteen Edward III. began not only to reign but to
rule. In him a part of the first Edward lived again, but
a part only. He was a brilliant soldier and a magnificent
man, but hardly a general and still less a statesman. His
reign belongs more to the history of war than of politics,
and it is a reign of calamity under the guise of victory, of
splendid achievements bearing no fruit and bringing end-
less evils in their train. Political development, however,
was promoted through the financial exigencies of war
and the political element in war power was signally dis-
played.

It was in the right field that the young paladin gave
the first proof of his prowess. Furnished with justi-
fication by Scottish raids on England, he began to con-
quer where conquest might have been lasting, and, if
lasting, would, in the end, have been beneficent. By his
1333 signal victory at Halidon he showed that at Bannockburn
the fault had not been in the army but in the commander.

210



CHAP. X EDWARD III 211

He annexed Berwick, and had he steadily brought his
force to bear in that direction, he would probably have
annexed Scotland. The marvellous success of Baliol,
who, in a moment, and with a handful of troops, made
himself master of the country, transient as it was, sufficed 1332-
to show that the resistance, though stubborn, was not
adamantine or such as superior force and policy united
might not have overcome. Unhappily, Edward was
tempted to exchange the bleak and hungry north, where
his real treasure lay, for a sunnier, richer, and, as it
seemed to him, more glorious, field in France. He was
the paragon of his age, and the age was one of warlike
but frivolous adventure. The true chivalry of the cru-
sades was dead ; its knell was the fall of the Templars.



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